How To Fail is a book for everyone who has ever failed at something. Written as both a manifesto and a memoir, it recalls the various different failures of the author Elizabeth Day and how the process of failing and starting over both shapes and defines our success throughout life.
How To Fail by Elizabeth Day
How To Fail is inspired by an award-winning podcast by the author.
Using insights from her own experience paired with journalistic interviews with the rich, successful and famous, How To Fail is an uplifting and frank admission that the experience of failure affects all of us and that understanding how we fail helps us to make better decisions for the future.
With chapters on fitting in, dating, the workplace, dating, appearance, friendship and more, the book is written from the perspective of a high achieving female struggling to cope with the overwhelming demands of modern life and the various different pressures it places on all of us to be seen not to fail.
Below are some of the key insights I took from this book:
- All of us experience failure and yet society treats it as the ultimate taboo.
- Whether we want to start a business, nuture a family, write a book or become famous for our talent we will always need to fail in order to succeed.
- Fear of failure can often stem from our childhood where we desire to fit in with others.
- In education, our performance on exams provides an easy hit of validation that is habit forming but ultimately doesn’t exist in the world after education.
- In your twenties there is a huge amount of pressure to succeed at life and simultaneously enjoy your freedom in a compressed time window.
- Dating is another minefield where we have to open ourselves up to vulnerability [Daring Greatly] but can often become preoccupied with our own timeframes.
- Fear of failure in sports offers another lesson as improvement only comes with a positive attitude towards our own shortcomings and a desire to improve.
- Another social expectation is to achieve the ideal relationship within a certain time frame which is highly damaging and can often lead to toxic scenarios for both.
- Gwyneth Paltrow embodies a damaging narrative that everyone can be rich, famous and talented with only a little effort and focus. This is unrealistic in practice.
- In the workplace, sometimes our perceptions of being a failure or success don’t match up to what ultimately leads to our greatest achievements [e.g. redundancy]
- Friendships are a great source of comfort in times of failure but can often themselves come under strain if we don’t choose our friends wisely.
- For women especially, the societal expectation to have babies is another source of pressure with the expectation of a seamless pregnancy and childbirth running counter to the actual lived experience of thousands of women.
- Raising a family is also a task that can prove daunting to many people with the fear of failing our children at the front and centre of our mind.
- It is also the case that many of us fail to understand or express our emotions especially when socially restricted [e.g. vulnerability for men, anger for women]
- Even when we succeed in life the fear of failure is a constant and can often sabotage our own achievements [upper limit problem].